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Historically Speaking


It was a year of pirates in speedboats,
anonymous bullies spreading privacies
on the Internet, and the worst of them
doing worse than that and wishing to be known
for what they'd done, their perfidy
an advertisement for a cause.

Thus it was a bad year for historians,
whose stories couldn't be correct
for longer than a few days. More than ever
the imperfections of memory
would combine with the slipperiness
of documentation to produce versions
only people who need not be persuaded
could agree with.

It was a war
where the enemy sometimes was wearing
the same clothes as its opponent,
and both sides believed their cause
was righteous, and years from now the victors,
if we were unlucky, would tell it as it wasn't,

unless we were the victors, and our historians
would tell it from so many angles
that both was and wasn't
would read like a symphony of discordancies,
an honoring of so many counterpoints
that I, for one, might find a place to rest uneasy,
historically speaking, among all the bloodshed,
the horror, which would stop for a while and continue.


Stephen Dunn

The Paris Review

Winter 2016


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